Story - Master of Cheese

100 Dwarf Hunter
8050
Below you will find my story entry for the 2010 writing contest. Note the story takes place between the events of Warcraft III and World of Warcraft. For you Hordies, Elling Trias is the proprietor of the Stormwind Cheese shop.

NOTE: For some reason Quote marks aren't coming through. I'll fix that once I have the story fully posted.
Edited by Hrrathul on 11/5/2010 8:42 AM PDT
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100 Dwarf Hunter
8050
Master of Cheese

The mid-day summer storm, for which the region was famous, darkened the city of Stormwind such that it seemed to be late evening. Rain beat on the roof of the Stormwind Cheese Shop and cascaded in sheets over the windows. Gusting wind caused the hanging sign, depicting a wedge of cheese and the words ‘Trias Cheese’ underneath, to squeak as it swung on rusted hinges. Occasional lightning flashed through the windows of the shop casting a weird, blue light through the thick imperfect glass to the candlelit interior.

Inside, the proprietor, a dark haired middle-aged man, pushed a broom around the floor. Stopping for a moment to scratch the scar under his eye-patch the man grumbled, “I’m the Master of Cheese. I shouldn’t have to sweep my own shop. Where is that blasted apprentice?”

A voice called out from the kitchen in the back, “What are you mumbling about up there dear?”

“I’m not mumbling, I’m grumbling. There’s a difference,” groused Elling as he rammed the broom into an awkward corner. The front room of the cheese shop, although not small, had some particularly cramped corners owing to its old fashioned design. A counter, upon which a candelabrum stood with three tapered candles, faced the door. Also on the counter, various small cheeses in round, square, and triangular shapes were laid out for sampling. A shelf behind the counter held larger rounds and bundles of cheese each stamped in various inks. The labels were as varied as their contents from Alterac Swiss direct from the northern mountains, to Darnassian Bleu marked in a glowing Elven script, and, of course the house specialty, Stormwind Brie.

“What did you say dear?” came the voice from the kitchen.

“I’m not mumbling!” yelled Elling cramming the straw broom in the corner.

The smell of mulled wine and something baking wafted through the opening kitchen door as a female form, that of Elaine Trias, emerged from the kitchen hands on hips. “Elling Jonathon Trias do not yell at me. And yes you were mumbling, I could hear you all the way back there.”

Sweeping the imprecation aside and without looking up Elling answered in clipped tones, “I’m the Master of Cheese. I shouldn’t have to sweep my own shop. Sweeping is the apprentice’s duty. I should know. I did all the sweeping for my father.” Elling emphasized each sentence by cramming the broom into the corner, straw splintering.

“Here give me that,” Elaine hissed in exasperation as she reached for the broom. Elaine deftly maneuvered the tip of the broom through the corner. While she swept Elling turned towards the counter and hid a smile from his wife. He knew that Elaine couldn’t stand to watch as someone performed a task inexpertly. “Why you chose Stormwind of all places to live when rain puts you in a foul mood is beyond me…” Elaine paused as a thought came to her. “So who swept the shop when you weren’t around?”

“What do you mean?” Elling asked smile fading.

“I mean when you were an apprentice in your father’s shop, who swept the floor when you were out adventuring in all those stories you told me about?” For a moment Elling stood bemused, but he was saved from answering for just then a gust of wind caught the shop’s door and slammed it into the wall. A stooped figure stood framed in the doorway wrapped in a cloak, one wrinkled hand outstretched as if the door had been ripped out of its grasp and the other clutching a walking stick. Elaine put away the broom and rushed to the door.

“Come in out of the storm, old father,” Elaine urged as she ushered the stooped figure past the threshold. Elling pulled a chair out for the man as Elaine removed his cloak. “I’ll just take this to the kitchen and hang it by the fire to dry while I get you something warm to drink.”

“Thank you, thank you young lady,” the man said in a tremulous voice. “A warm drink would do me some good right now. The rain is terrible on these old bones.” The old man gingerly sat down rubbing his legs. The man’s hair was gray and lanky; a large wart covered most of his nose. Bushy gray eyebrows jutted over his yellowed eyes and he grinned a snaggle toothed smile.

Elling set the man’s stick in a corner and pulled out the chair opposite his and abruptly said, “Hello Mathias.” At this the old man straightened and his face turned red. “Blast it Elling! How did you know it was me? I spent hours on this one.”

“Bah, a Master knows all.” Elling quipped. A huge grin split his face pushing up the patch over his right eye as he slid over a plate of bread and cheese.

“Master? What does a master of cheese know other than curdled milk?” snapped Mathias Shaw, current head of the Stormwind Assassin’s Guild.
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100 Dwarf Hunter
8050
In a low voice Elling answered, “There’s more to cheese than curdled milk. And as for master, I’ll always be Master to you Mathias Shaw. Take that wart for instance. It draws too much attention. The goal of a disguise is to deflect attention not draw it.” The two men locked eyes for a moment and then Elaine entered the room with a tray holding two mugs. She set the tray on the table expertly and plopped the mugs in front of the two men. “Drink up Mathias, you don’t want to catch cold.” At the mention of his name again Mathias threw his hands into the air. Elaine retreated with a laugh back to the kitchen. Mathias grabbed his mug and began to mumble into it before taking a sip.

“I heard that Mathias,” Elaine called out of the kitchen.

“She doesn’t like it when people mumble,” chastised Elling as he brought his mug to his smiling lips and then the two men started to laugh as well. As they sat drinking their mulled wine and lunching on the cheese and bread, they talked of old times and caught up on the gossip of mutual acquaintances. From time to time, wiping her hands upon her apron, Elaine would join the pair listening to their stories and occasionally adding some of her own. Eventually the subject turned back to the rain when Elaine hung Mathias’s dry cloak on a peg by the door.

“So why the visit on a day like this, Mathias? I know you’re not here to try and convince me to come back to the Guild again.”

Mathias put his mug down and pushed away his plate. “And why wouldn’t I try to convince you Elling? There’s a war on and the Alliance needs everyone to step forward. Many people are you know. Stepping forward that is. Veterans of the past are stepping up to meet the new threat. They’re putting down their plows and hoes and picking up the sword. Why shouldn’t a cheese seller do the same?”

This last question got him a dangerous look from the one-eyed man. It was a look that Mathias had known before and it usually presaged something unpleasant, but he pushed on anyway. “It wasn’t the Guild’s fault you know nor even yours,” he continued in a soft voice. “David was his own man. He made his own choices.”

Elling slapped the table causing the mugs and the platter of cheese to bounce, “He was a boy, Mathias, and the guild had no business putting him out there!”

Mathias inwardly chastised himself; he hadn’t meant to mention David directly to his friend and mentor. But now the damage was done. “Come on Elling, he was not much younger than you if what you used to tell me was true. Besides no one had any idea Lordaeron would fall so quickly.” With a shake of his head he rose from his chair, “No, Elling, I didn’t come here to try and convince you to come back. But I would like you to consider contacting some of your old network. The Third never quite recovered since you left. Renzik wants you to consider at least acting as a go between.”

“Renzik is head of the Third now? You replaced me with a goblin?” Elling suddenly burst into a roar of laughter. “You are hard up,” he finally managed to say. Then with a pointed finger he started, “You tell Renzik...”

Mathias quickly cut him off as he grabbed his walking stick and cloak and headed for the door. “Elling just consider it. You don’t have to answer now.” As he opened the door he became the stooped old man again and tottered back into the storm.

Elling sat for a long time rubbing the scar under his eye-patch until he felt a presence. Elaine stood in the kitchen doorway watching him. As he turned towards her she came forward and picked up the plates and mugs from the table. As she did so Elling noticed a scrap of paper that had been hidden under his mug. He quickly palmed it before Elaine could see it.

Later that evening as Elaine prepared for bed upstairs and as he was closing up shop, he slipped out the paper and read it.

“We found David. He is Forsaken.”
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100 Dwarf Hunter
8050
They say riding a fast horse at a gallop over a smooth path is like flying. The rider leans forward reins loose in his grip and legs tight around the animal’s barrel-like torso. Hooves churning, the wind tosses hair and mane alike as the gallop eats away the ground below. The sensation is the very definition of exhilarating. There is the feeling that you and your beast are unstoppable, immortal, and yet your rational mind tells you that at any moment a misstep could crash you both to the ground in a jumble of mangled bone and flesh. Then there is that misstep or a sudden obstacle and you see your doom, but you recover in some way, the misstep corrected, the obstacle jumped or swerved around and suddenly you feel more alive than ever before and you let out a sudden whoop and wish the ride could go on forever.

But flying, real flying, is nothing like that at all. At least for Elling Trias it wasn’t. To the Master of Cheese, flying crossed the threshold of exhilaration into the realm of terror with a Gryphon’s flapping wings. Elaine and Elling Trias rode a Gryphon high above the Alterac Mountains. Flying on the back of a Gryphon was nothing like riding a horse in any way. And at this moment if anyone had suggested such, Elling would have gladly slit their throat from ear to ear with one of the dozen or so razor sharp daggers adorning his person. For one thing, with horse and rider, the rider controlled the horse. With a good rider and horse, there was no doubt who was in charge. Well there was no doubt in this case either, and it wasn’t the rider. It was the Gryphon.

The second reason flying was nothing like riding, Elling ticked off to himself in his mind, if a horse and rider stumble, the accident is over in seconds and there would be a good chance that horse and rider could survive with little more than bumps and bruises. Conversely, with a Gryphon, if you were to lose your seat death was certain and it wouldn’t be a quick death either. You would have time to contemplate your demise in great detail as the ground rushed to meet you. No, Elling thought, riding and flying were definitely not the same.

He gripped the high seat back that separated the front and rear riders with such force that his knuckles and even his hands were bone white. Through gritted teeth Elling hissed, “I don’t know how I let you talk me into this Elaine.” She turned around at the sound of his voice and smiled.

“Just keep your eye shut Elling. It shouldn’t be that hard since you only have one to worry about,” laughed Elaine. Unlike Elling, Elaine was thoroughly enjoying herself. She had always liked Gryphon rides and although they were not uncommon in Azeroth the expense was usually out of reach. From time to time she would let out a loud ‘whoop’ as the Gryphon would suddenly dive or dip in response to some terrain feature or vagary of the wind currents. Even so she was aware of her husband’s discomfiture and tried to rein in her enthusiasm. But now her husband’s continued grousing was bringing her to the point where sympathy was turning into irritation. She took a little pleasure in prodding the love of her life. In an overly sweet voice Elaine yelled over her shoulder, “You do recall that this was your idea, dear?”

“If I could pry my hands from this seat back woman, I would wring your neck,” Elling replied without much conviction, because it had indeed been his idea.

The day after the disguised assassin had deposited the note in his shop, Elling arranged a meeting with Mathias. He told Elling that the guild had learned the Argent Dawn based at Chillwind Camp was in negotiations with a group of Forsaken and one of them claimed to be David Trias. Elling’s younger brother’s name was David, whom Elling had long since thought dead.

Elling had originally been determined to undertake the journey alone. Elaine would have none of it, however. Elaine had also been a member of the Stormwind Assassin’s Guild. In fact it was in that very guild that the two had met. So Elling knew that not only could Elaine hold her own, but that she would be an asset to his mission.

They started the journey by taking ship from Stormwind to Menethil Bay, a two-day trip. In Menethil Bay they then boarded another smaller ship, really an over large fishing vessel, for another day’s sailing to Southshore. At Southshore they had two options: either hire a Gryphon flight or hire horses for an overland journey. The journey between Southshore and Chillwind Camp was not only long, but also dangerous. The road passed by the horde controlled town of Tarren Mill, up through the passes of the Alterac Mountains controlled by Ogres, and then through lands controlled by human brigands to the edge of the Plaguelands where the Argent Dawn had set up their camp. Even so, if it hadn’t been for Elaine, Elling would have traveled overland from Southshore for he hated to fly.
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100 Dwarf Hunter
8050
Elling was replaying the plan in his mind frantically trying to ignore his current situation, when, with a loud squawk, the Gryphon started to spiral rapidly down. Elling’s stomach lurched. “What’s this blasted beast doing now?”

“It looks like he’s landing dear. Look down. See, we made it,” Elaine pointed. Below them in a small valley sprawled Chillwind Camp, the Argent Dawn outpost. Chillwind Camp had once been the farm of a prosperous family. But was now the last outpost on the edge of the inhospitable Plaguelands; lands once under human control that had been ravaged by war and even worse, the scourge plague. The scourge plague, indiscriminate of age or station, corrupted humans, wasting away their flesh and their minds. Most of the camp dwellings were tents of various sizes and were neatly spaced. A ditch surrounded the camp and a wall of earth was raised with the displaced dirt from the ditches. Long pointed wooden stakes facing outward had been hammered into the ground atop the wall. Cooking fires burned here and there, but as the Gryphon’s spiral brought them closer to the ground Elling noticed there was no one tending the fires. Then they heard the sounds of battle. “Elaine,”; Elling started to say.

“I know. I hear it too,” Elaine replied. Elaine checked the Gryphon’s decent and they circled above. The camp was under attack.

The assaulting force had the shuffling gait of the risen dead. These were mindless automatons, skeletons of warriors past still wearing their ancient rusting armor and wielding swords and axes. Along with the skeletons, fewer in number but just as determined, were dozens of zombies. Zombies, also mindless dead had been risen from fresher corpses and still retained much of their rotting flesh. They carried no weapons but their ragged nails, supernatural strength, and the inability to feel any sort of pain.

The camp’s defenders held the high ground atop the earthen wall. They hurled down missiles at their attackers, who struggled to make the steep climb, and seemed to be holding the shuffling tide at bay. But just outside the camp another group of warriors had been surrounded. Inside a square of warriors with interlocked shields, stood several harried magic users frantically trying to counter enemy spell casters. Also striding around the inside of the square was a tall warrior in shining plate armor. In one mighty hand he brandished a huge glowing warhammer. His focus seemed to be primarily to encourage and prop up the men forming the shield wall. The figure was surrounded in a white glow that would occasionally flash brighter as he touched a drooping warrior with his healing magic.

Yet even surrounded, the tall paladin, for only paladins wielded such magic, encouraged his men to inch forward, not towards the camp, but away from it. Their goal appeared to be a hill on which a tattered and dark flag flew. Beneath the flag, astride a dark horse, a Necromancer directed the battle. Surrounding him were skeletal magic users who alternately used cold and fire to blast the defenders. It was against these foes that the Argent Dawn wizards were endeavoring to shield their allies. Other than the magic wielding skeletons the Necromancer appeared to have no other guards.

“Elaine!” Elling shouted, “Do you think you can urge the Gryphon to attack the Necromancer?” Elling pointed at the figure under the banner.

Elaine shook her head, “I’ve been trying, but either he doesn’t understand or he’s refusing.”

“Can you make him land us behind that hill then?” Elling pointed to a gully just behind the Necromancer’s hill. Elaine shrugged and leaned forward and spoke to the beast who gave a squawk and began the decent. As they drew near their target they saw that the area wasn’t completely clear. About a dozen undead stragglers milled about aimlessly as if their master had forgotten them. The Gryphon continued its decent however, aiming strait for a shuffling zombie. Just as it was about to land on the fiend it snatched it up with a talon, bit off its head with a crunch, tossed the torso aside, and landed with a bounce.
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100 Dwarf Hunter
8050
Elaine and Elling leapt off the beast’s back each with short-sword and dagger in hand. For a moment the pair stood side-by-side, wary. The smell of the living caught the straggling creatures’ attention and with low terrible moans they started to shuffle toward the three. As they shuffled forward arms outstretched, terrible maws gaping, the stench of the monsters overpowered their senses and the couple fought down the urge to gag. The black jagged teeth of the rotting creatures were horrible, but even worse and what would haunt their nightmares for a long time were the effects of decay on the undead bodies. The closest zombie had no jaw but yet still had its tongue intact which seemed to be impossibly long; like some pink and gray mottled snake it slithered and swayed out before its face. Just behind the lead monster another had one eyeball dangling by a small thread of flesh from its eye socket and in its place worms seethed in and out as they devoured what was left of its brain.

For a moment, they stood frozen until a thundering squawk jolted them and the Gryphon charged forward. Beating its expansive wings it rose on lion-like legs tearing at the undead with eagle claws and snapping with its beak. The husband and wife team shook off their terror and reverted to trained assassins. They did not meet their foes head on, but instead darted in and around the Gryphon taking on the zombies from the side or behind. They worked together, one maiming a beast by severing a tendon or lopping off a limb, the other would finish it off with a savage chop with their heavy short sword to the neck or with a downward stroke cleaving the skull in two. Soon their foes lay all about them. The Gryphon without even a glance at the pair of humans took off and was soon out of sight.

“Well so much for that. I had heard that Gryphons were testy,” Elaine panted hands on her knees. After a quick look around to get their bearings the two headed up the hill where they had last seen the Necromancer. Along the way they encountered a few more zombies, but dispatched them quickly enough.

The hill was covered with brush and scrub trees and it flashed red with fire or blue with ice as the alternating magics continued to blast down the other side of the hill. The assassins crept as close as they dared to the top of the hill. At its apex the tattered black banner still stood, as did the Necromancer and his two skeletal magic users. The assassins looked at each other instantly agreeing on a plan without the need for words or even hand signals.

Crouching low the pair charged for the backs of the two casters. Normally an assassin would target a kidney or a lung when approaching a living target from behind. But these creatures had neither. The skeletal casters stood naked of all flesh and organs, their yellowed bones dull in the dim light. Instead as they approached each of their targets, the assassins held their blades away from their bodies and brought them together in a scissoring motion. The enchanted blades severed the spines of the horrors as easily as slicing cheese.

Noticing his lieutenants fall, the Necromancer turned his magics on the new assailants. He hurled a black bolt of pure shadow power at Elaine who tried to jump aside but was clipped by the bolt. She cried out in pain as it tossed her to the ground. In the second it took the Necromancer to turn to him, Elling threw down a flash pellet and another bolt passed harmlessly through smoke. In an instant, Elling was behind the evil magic user stabbing at its back. The Necromancer screamed in pain and spun around so fast that the dagger was ripped from Elling’s hand. From an open palm the Necromancer sent out a blast of fire that threw Elling back.

Elling must have blacked out for an instant since suddenly his foe stood above him preparing to blast him with its deadly power. As the evil being stood over him muttering through his grinning teeth, Elling used the image of Elaine’s strained face to summon the anger it would take to get his pain wracked body moving. His right hand found the hilt of his boot dagger and with the speed that only a few men are ever born with he let it fly. One moment the dagger was in Elling’s hand and the next the hilt sprouted between the Necromancer’s eyes. For a split second the evil magic user stood, mouth gaping in death, then its head exploded as a huge hammer slammed into it from behind crumpling the body to the ground.
The immediate fight over, Elling started to crawl to Elaine, but the tall paladin stood over him. “Light’s greetings friend,” he said in a deep baritone stretching down a hand to help.
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100 Dwarf Hunter
8050
With the death of the Necromancer the battle was won. The mindless skeletal warriors made up the bulk of the undead army and without the Necromancer they lost all cohesion. They were still dangerous, but they no longer fought as an army and the soldiers of the Argent Dawn moving with military precision cleared the field of the remaining foes. The Paladin introduced himself to Elling as Ashlam Valorfist, Commander of the Argent Dawn camp. After seeing to Elling and Elaine’s injuries he escorted them back to the camp.

"I apologize for not being able to do more for you, but my healing powers were put to their limits during the fight. Things were starting to look bleak for us before you two showed up. That foul necro almost had us in his trap. But enough of that for now, I must get you back to camp. High Priestess MacDonnell or one of her acolytes will soon set you to rights."

Elling and Elaine were shown to a small tent whose only furnishings were two cots, a small writing desk, and a rickety camp chair. As it turned out it was an acolyte that came to heal their wounds with Light magic. Just as the healer admonished them to eat a good meal and rest, a woman entered the tent bearing a food tray. The woman sat the tray containing two steaming bowls of soup and a loaf of hard brown bread on the small desk. With a look the woman dismissed the acolyte who stopped mid-sentence and exited the tent.

"€œBrother Jacob means well, but he's a bit of a mother hen. May I?" This was asked to Elaine as she bent over to examine her wounds. Elaine had sustained several minor cuts during the fray and these had all been healed. But the tall Priestess clucked when she examined the shadow wound. The bolt had struck Elaine on the left hip. "€œShadow magic is so very tough for us to deal with. I'€™m afraid your wound will take time to heal."

"€œHow much time Priestess? Priestess MacDonnell I assume?"€ Elling asked with concern.

"Ah, how rude of me."€ The Priestess stood and with a slight curtsey answered, "€œYes, I am High Priestess MacDonnell and you are Master Elling Trias and Mistress Elaine Trias of Stormwind. Am I correct?"

Elling stood and bowed, "€œYes priestess. Word gets around I see."

"Well Master Trias it isn'€™t everyday that Commander Valorfist, in fact his whole force, are saved by two strangers. But even at that we knew of your coming beforehand. Indeed you might say it was because of your coming that the Commander and his men were surrounded out there." At this Elling started to ask about this, but the Priestess with a wink continued, "€œWell Master of, hmm, Cheese is it? The Assassins aren'€™t the only ones with secrets and this secret will have to wait for Commander Valorfist since it isn'€™t mine to divulge."€ With that last comment she was out of the tent before Elling could get out his question.

"What a strange woman,"€ Elling said under his breath.

Elaine shifted uncomfortably on her cot reaching for a bowl of soup. "You really shouldn'€™t mumble dear. Can you help me with this soup? I can'€™t quite reach it and I'€™d rather not get up."€ Elling took one of the bowls and knelt beside Elaine'€™s cot, holding it for her to eat. As he knelt before her looking into her eyes, he felt a crushing weight on his heart. He felt utterly responsible for his wife'€™s wounds. He should never have agreed to bring her along.

Elaine knew what was coming and dreaded it. For it was an old argument. As Elling opened his mouth to speak, Elaine gently put her hand to his lips. "€œHush dear, someone is outside the tent."

Elling took hold of her hand and then considered her comment. Unconsciously, he had registered the fact and even guessed that the figure had been waiting for the blonde priestess to leave, but Elling'€™s concern for his wife had kept that knowledge from coming to the fore. "€œI suppose he'€™ll either enter before you take two more spoonfuls or he'€™ll leave."€ Just as Elaine brought up her next spoonful there came a knock, or rather sc@**%%#, on the outside tent flap.

"Enter," said Elling. He handed the bowl to Elaine and stood.
Edited by Hrrathul on 11/10/2010 1:20 PM PST
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100 Dwarf Hunter
8050
A man of medium height and build ducked in. His clothes were of fine make, if somewhat tattered, and he had a monocle over one eye. His bearing was unmistakably aristocratic as he unconsciously looked down his nose at the pair.

"Baron Weldon Barov at your service," he pronounced with a slight bow. Before either Elling or Elaine could reply the Baron continued, "And you two are Elling and Elaine Trias, slayers of the Necromancer, and saviors of the Argent Dawn. The situation was rapidly spiraling downhill, if you'™ll excuse the pun, for our intrepid Commander and his troops before you two showed up to save the day."

Elaine instantly disliked the man. The pain in Elaine's hip throbbed and at this moment she wanted nothing more than to finish her dinner and rest. "So Baron where were you during the battle? I don'™t recall seeing you on the wall. But perhaps I missed you in all the action?"

The Baron stiffened at the remark and retorted, "œI admit I am no fighter. I would have been more of a hindrance to the good soldiers of Chillwind Camp than any sort of help. I was raised to manage my father's estates and to judge disputes, not to fight like a common soldier. In fact I stood to inherit my father'™s estates until the scourge slaughtered my family and occupied our lands. Even now they occupy my father'™s castle and holdings."

"Well, Baron," Elaine sarcastically emphasized the title, "œperhaps a little bit of common soldier training would have prevented the loss of your castle?"

"Well, Lady," the Baron mimicked, "œit just so happened that I was away on my father's business when the scourge attacked. By the time I was able to return our estates had been overrun. I have not yet even been able to take stock of our holdings to see what is left. I have been trying for months to get the Commander to loan me the use of some troops, but with little success. I had hoped..." the Baron trailed off unsure of himself. Then with a rush he proffered, "œI had hoped you two might agree to undertake a mission to reconnoiter our family estates? I'™ll reward you of course. My family was very wealthy and the castle treasury overflowed with riches."

Elling had suspected the conversation would lead to this and interjected, "œBaron Barov we are not here for adventure or riches. We already have a goal in mind. A goal that frankly, with my wife injured, I'™m not sure we'™ll reach."

"œLet me stop you right there, Master Elling. I know something of your mission. You'™re here to find your brother. You have found out that your brother or what was once your brother is now Forsaken. Am I correct? There is a reason we call them Forsaken, Master Elling. The scourge plague changed them forever. These creatures truly are beyond redemption. They may walk around in the corpses of our loved ones, but they are no longer what they once were. They have abandoned all they once knew. They will betray anyone and everything. They are no longer human. They are monsters." With each sentence the Baron grew more and more agitated and started to pace back and forth at the tent entrance, as much as the small dwelling would allow.

Elling grew very still during the Baron's diatribe. Elaine, knowing her husband, put a restraining hand on his forearm. In a low voice Elling cut the Baron short, "We are not interested in anything you have to offer Baron. And our business is just that, our business. Now I would kindly ask you to leave us," Elling fixed the Baron with his one-eyed stare and finished, "Now."

Without a word the Baron swept aside the tent flap and departed. The two brooded in silence for a moment. "What if he'™s right Elaine? Have I risked your life, our lives for nothing?"

"Elling, I know one thing, I don'™t trust that man. And you shouldn't take anything he says as true." Elaine pulled Elling down to her and took his head in her hands forcing him to look at her. "œI do know you Elling. I know that until you find out if this Forsaken claiming to be David is or was your brother you won'™t be content." Elling continued to look his wife in the eye and slowly nodded as what she was saying started to register. Quietly he kissed his wife on the forehead and eased her back on the cot. He sat beside her silently cleaning and sharpening his blades until her breathing steadied with sleep. Testing the sharpness of a dagger he mumbled under his breath, "œWhether or not the Forsaken can be trusted is not the question. What will I do if he is my brother?"

A scratching at the tent flap awaked Elling. He had dozed off. The strain of the battle and the subsequent magical healing had taken more of a toll than he realized. Instead of answering the '˜knock'™ he instead sheathed his knives and exited the tent. A soldier in the livery of the Argent Dawn stood outside. "Commander Valorfist has requested your presence Master Elling."
Edited by Hrrathul on 11/5/2010 9:47 AM PDT
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100 Dwarf Hunter
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After a short discussion with the soldier, Elling traveled a short distance and entered the command tent. The commander stood over a table in the center of the tent strewn with maps, inventory sheets, and rosters. The commander looked up and grinned. “Master Elling, thank you for coming. I see though you have come alone. Where is the soldier I sent to fetch you?”

“I persuaded him to stay and guard my wife. We had a bit of trouble with a certain Baron and I wanted to be sure she wouldn’t be disturbed,” Elling replied.

At this the commander’s face darkened. “I assume you’ve met Baron Barov then. He’s been hanging around here for months. Did he ask you to recover his family deeds from the Scholomance?”
“He mentioned something about his family’s estates, but I dismissed him.”

“Good, you have sense and combat prowess. I like that. The Baron as he likes to call himself is no such thing. Legally, his brother Alexi should inherit the Barov estates. But there’s one wrinkle. Well, two wrinkles actually. One is his family lands are in the hands of the undead scourge army and the second is that Alexi is Forsaken.”

“His brother is…” Elling couldn’t say the word.

“Yes Master Elling, Forsaken. The Legion’s plague, that infected the citizens of Lordaeron turning them into beings between death and undeath, split apart not just a kingdom, but families as well. I suspect if you took the time you would find that you are not alone. The plague forever divided mothers from children, husbands from wives, and brothers from brothers. So you are not so unique.”

Silence filled the tent as Elling considered the Commander’s words. “The High Priestess mentioned something. She said that the battle today had something to do with us? With…my brother?”

“In a way yes.” The Commander stepped back towards the table and pointed to a spot on a map. “I took a contingent of my men through the ruined city of Andorhal here,” then he traced his finger northwest, “up to the Bulwark to inquire about the one claiming to be David Trias. The Bulwark is a guard post set up by the Forsaken to guard against the Scourge of the Plaguelands.”

“What do you know of these Forsaken, Commander? I understand you’ve had dealings with them.”

“We’ve had more than just dealings with them, Elling.” The commander emphasized his words by pointing the part of the map that marked the Bulwark. “The Argent Dawn is actively pursuing an alliance with this group of Forsaken. They have taken control of their own destiny. This group has broken free from the Legion and the traitor Prince Arthas. We have even accepted a few of these Forsaken into our ranks. They were once heroes, men we personally knew and fought beside who were caught by the infestation. The plague has forever changed them. There is no doubt of that. But I believe the Forsaken as a whole are no different than any other men struck by tragedy. Some are angry with everyone and everything, some despair, some freely join the very enemy that made them what they are, others seek to make the most of their situation. Each man must choose his path, Elling. It is no different for these than it is for many others affected by tragedy and wars, past and present.”

“You make it sound so very logical, Commander,” sneered a raspy voice from a darkened corner of the tent. Elling spun toward the voice, daggers suddenly appearing in both hands. The figure didn’t move and began to laugh. The rasping laugh caused Elling to shudder; it had the sound of metal sc#%#*%* metal, but was somehow familiar. “So big brother, are you losing your touch?”
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100 Dwarf Hunter
8050

The Commander moved beside Elling, but resisted the urge to put a restraining hand on his shoulder. “How long have you been there Master David?” inquired the Commander in a strained voice. “You were supposed to wait in your tent until I had spoken with Master Elling.”

“Why Commander it has been so long since I’ve seen my loving brother I just couldn’t wait a minute longer,” sneered the voice. The figure glided out of the shadows. The skin on his face and exposed hands was a mottled grey. Here and there the skin peeled back to show muscle and even, in places, bare bone. The eyes burned with intensity in contrast to its face, which bore a permanent lipless grin.

As the two figures stood considering each other the commander couldn’t help but notice a striking similarity. Both men stood clad in black, sheathed daggers covered forearms and thighs, and each wore a short sword at their waist. Although the Forsaken’s figure was twisted and stooped, there was a sense of sameness in their stance.

It wasn’t the weapons or the stance that drew Elling’s attention. Elling focused on the burning eyes. In those eyes Elling saw his little brother for the first time in many years. He saw a brother for whom in his mind and heart he had grieved and put to rest. It was because of the death of his brother that Elling had left the Guild. At the realization that the creature before him was David, Elling was forced to come to terms with his true fear. David was alive and Forsaken.

With that crushing thought Elling whispered, “David?”

The creature advanced arms outstretched as if he meant to hug the other man. Elling stood still. “What no hug for your little brother?” he admonished in a mocking tone. “You never visit me or even write.”

The air between the two seemed to grow thick, but the Commander stepped between them facing the Forsaken. “You are a guest here Master David. I expect you to treat my hospitality with respect.” Slowly the Forsaken lowered his arms and backed down.
For a moment the Forsaken stood there shaking, then slowly he passed a hand over his face and his demeanor relaxed. In a softer tone he said, “Forgive me Commander I did not mean to... The plague sometimes makes me... It’s just that seeing my brother...”

Elling Trias straightened and sheathed his blades. There was something in that tone of voice that brought back memories of him and his brothers and the old cheese shop, their father’s shop, where he swept the floor around his little brother who seemed to be constantly underfoot. Elling approached his brother and pulled him into an embrace.

________________

The sun blazed down on the city of Stormwind, unseasonal for a late autumn day. The citizens of the city scurried about taking advantage of the warmth to conduct necessary business before the coming of winter. Children were allowed to play in the streets, given the day off by their masters and teachers. And Elling Trias, Master of Cheese, swept the porch of his shop pondering his recent adventures.

Commander Valorfist had left the two brothers in his command tent and posted guards so they wouldn’t be disturbed. Elling spoke little of what was said between him and his brother, not even to his wife. The horrific story that spewed in a rush out of his brother’s mouth chilled Elling to the bone and he did not wish to retell them. From time to time he would awaken in the middle of the night in a terror and Elaine would have to calmly remind him he was safe in his bedroom above his shop.

As Elling stood on the porch his broom still, an old man approached the shop and Elling greeted him. “How can I help you old father?” Elling helped the wart-less old man to a wheel of cheese and slipped a note into the man’s patched coat that read, “I’m back.”

END
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51 Night Elf Hunter
620
Great story. Thanks for sharing.
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